Phil Boozeman’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2016
At long last, 2016 is almost over. I feel like a Simpsons intro with Bart writing “Fuck 2016” on the blackboard would be a lot better than anything I could write, but unfortunately, making that happen is not really in my power. Obviously, this has not been a great year by any means. We have a spray tanned lizard wearing a toupee who is about to run the country, a gorilla that people have been mourning for what, six fucking months now?, and more dead rockstars and celebrities than anyone cares to count. It’s years like these I’m glad we have metal, because as all of us metalheads know, it makes the shitty years like this one a little bit better.
Anyhoo, if you want to get in touch with your inner Boozeman, here are the albums to help you do it.
15. Silver Snakes – Saboteur (Evil Ink)
If you passed off Silver Snakes as mere radio rock upon first listen, then you could be forgiven. But there’s so much more to Saboteur than what your shitty local rock station plays. Saboteur is packed with all sorts of variation that won’t be found on 98.9 The Douche, including soft interludes, ambiance, and some heavy screaming that will make you think you’re listening to prog metal. And even though it can sound a bit like radio rock at times, it doesn’t suck. I cannot believe I just wrote those words in that order, but there you have it. If you need a break from your regular doom and gloom, check these guys out. It’s catchy and not entirely angry.
14. Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law (Metal Blade)
The first time I heard Anaal Nathrakh was when they dropped “Extravaganza!” off The Whole of the Law album. Considering that these guys have been releasing extreme metal since their first album came out in fucking 2001, I’m a little ashamed of myself that I hadn’t heard of them until then. The Whole of the Law is completely fucking bananas right down to the static filtered screaming, over-the-top blast beats and insane riffs. Anaal Nathrakh are not only good for your ears, they’re good for your HEALTH. That’s right, your health. Do you need to be completely leveled in the auditory spectrum? Then look no further because The Whole of the Law is here to bring your bitch ass to justice.
13. Animals as Leaders – The Madness of Many (Sumerian)
The last time I really liked an instrumental album was when Intervals dropped The Shape of Color in December of last year. I’m a dude who is big on vocals, so an instrumental act really has to really stand out to catch my ear. Animals as Leaders have done that since the first time I saw them back in high school and thought, “Who the fuck is this dude hanging out by the stage with the white short shorts?” Well, lo an behold, that dude was Tosin Abasi, and he proceeded to melt my brain from the first note of “CAFO.” This album, while not melting my brain in that manner, is an incredibly easy and relaxing listen for when I want metal without the aggressiveness cranked up all the way. Animals as Leaders have a pretty distinct sound, and they once again use it to impress on The Madness of Many.
12. Black Crown Initiate – Selves We Cannot Forgive (eOne)
Progressive death metallers Black Crown Initiate are some of our favorite here at MetalSucks, and although I wasn’t necessarily on the hype train until I was assigned to review this album, I was happy to purchase a first class ticket once I gave it a listen. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of vocalist Andy Thomas’ cleans, but that’s about the only thing I don’t like about these dudes. Thomas’ growls are nucking futs, and the rest of the band on their instruments are equally bananas. As I said in my review, “For Red Cloud” and “Belie the Machine” will hook you hardcore, and if they don’t, “Transmit to Disconnect” will snap your neck for daring to defy them. If you’ve never listened to these guys, you’re doing yourself a disservice — and five dollars says you like the cleans more than I do.
11. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King (Nuclear Blast)
Fleshgod Apocalypse blew me away the first time I listened to them, and King is no different. Any sort of blackened metal with an orchestra has been okay in my book since my mom introduced me to Dimmu Borgir’s “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” when I was in seventh grade (true story). This album does everything Fleshgod do well, such as the insane symphonic metal ballads that reach into the darkest parts of your mind, as well as atmospheric bits. But it has one flaw: tThe spoken word parts and interlude detract from the flow of the album and feel a tad unnecessary, even on what is supposed to be a concept album. Had they been blended in just a bit better, this album probably would have ranked near the top of my list. That being said, Fleshgod Apocalypse and King still wreck.
10. Carnifex – Slow Death (Nuclear Blast)
Carnifex is an absolutely beautiful latin word that roughly translates to “meatifier” in English. If that doesn’t tell you enough about Carnifex’s sound, then you’re in for a wild ride with Slow Death. It isn’t my favorite release by them — that award goes to Hell Chose Me — but Slow Death still ripped me a new one upon first listen. So few deathcore bands these days are good for more than a few releases, and Carnifex have been great on every album. They even have a bit of a black metal vibe going on in “Drown Me in Blood,” along with a riff that reminds me of The Black Dahlia Murder’s “Carbonized in Cruciform.” Long live the meatifier, long live Carnifex.
9. Fit For An Autopsy, The Acacia Strain, Thy Art Is Murder – The Depression Sessions (Nuclear Blast)
Other than all the fantastic headlines about these deathcore giants having a threesome for this split EP, there is a lot to like about The Depression Sessions. TAIM’s “They Will Know Another” is one of the band’s better tracks (despite the corny music video and Axl’s opinion of them), “Sensory Deprivation” is the mindless brutality we all expect from TAS, and “Flatlining” is just as good as any track on Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell. But the true beauty of this EP are the covers. C.J. McMahon growling in German to “Du Hast” is fantastic, and “Black Hole Sun” with Vincent Bennett’s vocals is so fucking wrong that it’s wonderful. Is it too early to be pining over a new album from all of these bands yet? My deathcore senses say no.
8. Serpentine Dominion – Self-titled (Metal Blade)
Ah, the long-awaited lovechild of Corpsegrinder, Adam D. and Shannon Lucas. Being as big a fan of The Black Dahlia Murder as I am, I love anything that Shannon Lucas blasts on. He is hands down my favorite metal drummer, and when you throw in death metal’s most recognizable vocalist along with a little insanity from Adam D., you know you’ve got something good. What took me by surprise were the use of clean vocals and the soft intro and interlude leading into the album’s finale, “This Endless War.” They weren’t just slapped onto the album randomly, they actually fit. Supergroups can tend to be a bit overhyped and gimmicky at times, but not this one. I hope this isn’t just a one and done deal, because Serpentine Dominion is fantastic.
7. Gojira – Magma (Roadrunner)
Danuh dadadadadadadada dah nuh dadadadadadadada danuh. How fucking great is that riff from “Silvera”? If you answered anything other than “boner-inducing,” then you’re wrong, because even thinking about it should get you moist. Yeah, I said it. Although Magma might not be the best album Gojira have ever released, it’s still pretty damn good. “Silvera” rips, “Pray” rips, “The Cell” rips, and this is a super good album from one of metal’s best acts. Of course the biggest issue I have with Gojira is that they’re French, which means I can’t see them live as often as I’d like. But I’ll sit down with them next time they’re in town and have a long talk with them about it, and everything will be okay parce que nous aimons Gojira.
6. Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty (Sumerian)
“DEATH IS COMING’ ROUND LIKE A HURRICANE SWIRLING.” That first line of “Marigold”’s chorus was stuck in my head for the better part of the summer of 2016, and it only seems appropriate considering all the high-profile deaths this year. I’ve never been a fan of high-pitched clean vocals, and anyone who has read my writing probably knows that. But for some reason, Periphery are different. I have no idea why Spencer Sotelo gets a pass from me, but fuck it, he does. Misha Mansoor is still a damn genius riff maker who makes me feel inadequate whenever I try to learn a Periphery song on the guitar, and I absolutely love this band and this album for it. “Marigold” is officially my favorite Periphery song ever.
5. Ghost – Popestar (Loma Vista)
We’ll just get straight to the point here. “Square Hammer” has a riff that’s pretty damn infectious. I cannot remember the last time a song got so ridiculously embedded in my head. I’m not sure when or why I would ever be on the square/level, but I found myself humming the intro riff over and over and over and over again at all times during the day to the point where I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts. But “Square Hammer” isn’t the only good track on Popestar. “Missionary Man” has a pretty catchy riff, as well, and I really have to give a hand to Ghost for reminding me that not all the music I enjoy has to be death and destruction. Sometimes music can be fun too, and if you’ve ever seen Ghost live, you know how true that is.
4. Aborted – Retrogore (Century Media)
Retrogore is an album that immediately became my go-to pick this year whenever I was senselessly pissed off and needed matching music to bludgeon all the anger out of my head. Of all the albums I reviewed this year, Retrogore easily takes the cake for being the most brutal. It then proceeds to eat said cake, stab you with the knife used to cut it, puke the cake into your stab wounds, and then beat you to death with your own limbs. Retrogore, as you could probably guess from the kick-ass album art, is not an album for the weak. Every single track is turned up to eleven, and this album will manhandle you if you’re not careful with it. It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t have just made an album about 2016 being shitty, because let’s face it, 2016 deserves to be aborted.
3. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason (Nuclear Blast)
It’s hard for the all-fathers of the djent to do any wrong, and The Violent Sleep of Reason confirms that. Meshuggah’s latest album is everything you would expect from them. It’s heavy as Axl Rose is fat, it has plenty of odd tempo rhythms, and if that weren’t enough, they fucking recorded the thing live. No studio production tricks here, just raw Meshuggah straight from the vine. What you hear on the album is what you’ll hear live, and considering that Meshuggah’s live recording sounds better than most bands do post-production, it’s just another reason they’re the best at what they do. This is absolutely an essential metal album not just for 2016, but for the history books.
2. Whitechapel – Mark of the Blade (Metal Blade)
Whitechapel aren’t your typical deathcore anymore, and that isn’t really a surprise to anyone who has been a fan of the band for their past few albums. The Tennessee seven-piece have slowly shifted from a trendsetting act in deathcore to more of a mature groove metal sound. Although their riffs no longer have the complexity and ferocity they had on This is Exile, Whitechapel proved with this album that they can write riffs that are both catchy and heavy as fuck. To top that off, Phil Bozeman experimented with clean vocals and absolutely fucking killed it. “Bring Me Home” is an incredibly emotional song about the loss of Phil’s father and definitely one of the best they’ve ever released. Our Endless War was a bit of a growing pains album, but all that was fixed this time around. When you have a song funky and heavy enough for a frost giant to hardcore dance to, you know you have a good album on your hands.
1. Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (Metal Blade)
Amon Amarth are one of the rare bands that have both been around for more than twenty years and have never put out a bad album. Jomsviking is the band’s tenth studio release and first concept album, and it was executed beautifully. From “First Kill” to “At Dawn’s First Light,” this album wrecks anything and everything in it’s path, just as you would expect a viking berserker to. And if that weren’t enough, we even get “Raise Your Horns,” which is easily my favorite metal drinking song ever. Jomsviking is Amon Amarth’s best work since Twilight of the Thunder God, and although it seemed like the band were starting to lose a bit of steam with Surtur Rising and Deceiver of the Gods, I was happily proven wrong. Here’s to many more years of viking metal and many more shows with Johan Hegg chugging beer on in between songs.